World Stamps

Britain’s Christmas stamps capture the beauty of stained glass windows

Nov 5, 2020, 9 AM
Great Britain’s new Christmas stamps feature Nativity scenes from stained glass windows in six Anglican churches: St. Andrew’s Church, East Lexham; St. Andrew’s Church, Coln Rogers; Church of St. James, Hollowell; All Saints’ Parish Church, Otley; St. Columba’s Church, Topcliffe; and Christ Church, Coalville. This Nov. 3 Christmas issue also includes nondenominated first-class and second-class stamps for large mail.

By Denise McCarty

Great Britain’s Royal Mail is celebrating Christmas with eight new stamps featuring Nativity scenes in stained glass.

The stamps were issued Nov. 3. In announcing them, Royal Mail said that the designs were “inspired by the artistry of stained-glass windows in Anglican churches the length and breadth of the country, focusing on the Nativity scene and the depiction of the Virgin Mary with the newly born Jesus Christ.”

The Christmas set includes four nondenominated stamps: second-class for standard mail (currently 65 pence), second-class for large mail (88p), first-class for standard mail (76p) and first-class for large mail (£1.15).

Royal Mail defines standard-size mail as letters not exceeding 24 centimeters in length, 16.5 centimeters in width and 0.5 centimeters in thickness, with a weight limit of 100 grams. Large letters can be up to 35.3 centimeters in length, 25 centimeters in width and 2.5 centimeters thick, with a weight limit of 750 grams.

The other four stamps in the set are denominated: £1.45 (letters to Europe up to 20 grams and worldwide up to 10 grams), £1.70 (international letters up to 20 grams and letters to Europe up to 100 grams), £2.50 (international letters to zones 1 and 3 up to 100 grams), and £2.55 (international letters to zone 2 up to 100 grams).

The two second-class stamps feature details from the 19th-century stained-glass window at St. Andrew’s Church, East Lexham, Norfolk.

In an article in a local newspaper Dereham Times, the Rev Canon Heather Butcher (the church’s rector) said, “The east window is full of colour and conveys so much of the Christian message with the triumphant ‘He is Risen’ at the apex. It is wonderful to have the window in this lovely little church illuminating the Christmas stamps this year.”

Featured on the two first-class stamps is the scene of Mary cradling Jesus from the east window of St. Andrew’s Church, Coln Rogers, Gloucestershire.

Additional details from the two windows are shown on the two nondenominated stamps for large mail. For example, on the second-class stamp for large mail, Joseph is pictured on the right, and the Magi (also known as the three kings or the three wise men) can be seen adoring the new-born Jesus.

The other stamps feature windows from the Church of St. James, Hollowell, Northamptonshire (£1.45); All Saints’ Church, Otley, West Yorkshire (£1.70); St. Columba’s Church, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire (£2.50); and Christ Church, Coalville, Leicestershire (£2.55).

Royal Mail Group Ltd. and the design firm Up designed the stamps, using photographs from different sources. Royal Mail described these designs as reflecting the “extraordinary detail and craftmanship of this highly specialised decorative art, covering a range of eras, styles and techniques.”

International Security Printers printed these self-adhesive stamps by gravure in sheets of 50 (sold in panes of 25 at most postal outlets), The first-class and second-class stamps for standard-size mail also were issued in booklets of 12.

The two stamps for large mail measure 34 millimeters by 28mm each, and the other stamps are each 24mm by 28mm. The stamps have die-cut perforations that gauge 14.5 by 15.

A souvenir sheet includes the eight Christmas stamps with traditional stamp gum displayed against a background showing light reflecting from a stained-glass window of St. Grada and Holy Cross Church in Cornwall. The sheet, which is 179mm by 74mm, was printed by lithography by International Security Printers.

Other products offered with this Christmas set include FDCs; a set of nine postcards reproducing the designs of the stamps and the souvenir sheet; a presentation pack with all eight stamps, plus illustrations and text about the windows; and a pane of 20 stamps that Royal Mail calls a “collectors sheet.”

The collectors sheet includes eight each of the second-class and first-class stamps and one each of the denominated stamps. Shown in the selvage are the illuminated stained-glass windows of St. Mary’s Church in Norfolk depicting the Nativity.

The stamps and related products are available online from Royal Mail.

Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland. Royal Mail’s agency in the United States is Interpost, Box 400, Hewlett, NY 11557.

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